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Macs In Schools
Wednesday, November 1, 2000 - by George Wagner

As has been seen by many people, Macs have been experiencing a tough time in schools lately. It is my hope that Apple will address their missteps quickly, but that will not completely solve this problem. I will attempt to address some of the problems and some ideas for ways to address them.

Business Model
Many schools have bought into this and feel that this means they must use Windows-based system since that is what you find in business. While the corporate world may be predominantly Windows, that is NOT an accurate model for all career paths. Many of the hardcore Windows businesses have Macintosh computers in their graphics and media departments, even Intel has Macs. Schools generally do not have the staff to provide the same level of support that businesses require, and that is an important aspect to bring up, but there are other things to also focus on. While many students will end up in the corporate world doing traditional business functions, many more will find themselves in more creative functions, even in corporations. This is especially true with the increasing popularity of the Internet and the growth of multimedia. This argument has great potential since virtually every school wants to believe that they are creating creative individuals.

Single Platform
This is a common argument, but there are some things that are overlooked. Even if you limit your purchases to a single vendor, there is no guarantee that you can assume the components will be the same, many vendors vary the components to some degree, making replacement more difficult. As has been shown in multiple studies, the costs to support a mixed environment was comparable to a Windows only environment.

Multiple Sources
Often, people will use the fact that Apple is the sole source for the Macintosh as a reason for moving to Windows, since you can purchase from many different vendors. While this immediately sounds logical, there is a flaw in this logic. Many schools (and businesses) get better prices by using a particular vendor, but then youOre in the same situation that this argument refutes.

It's what the kids will use when they graduate.
While this may also sound logical, it is just the opposite. Interfaces have changed dramatically in the last 5 years, and changes are happening even faster now. That means that the interface that the students use today will most likely bear little resemblance to what will be in use when they graduate. The same holds true for programs, which is why schools need to focus on concepts and procedures and not on programs. Generally, schools are behind the curve technologically, which means that they will not have the most up to date equipment. For current graduates, this logic would have created a work force that had little experience with a graphical user interface.

Windows computers are generally perceived as cheaper. While that is really not the case anymore, the perception remains. There are several points to make here. Since Macs include many features that need to be added to Windows computers, in addition to the actual costs, there is the time required to install. Given the longer lifespan of Macs, it is important to look long term when looking at costs. The replacement rates of Windows systems mean additional money must be budgeted EVERY year to replace equipment. That means money that could buy additional equipment is going to replacements. Worse, that means that money that could be going to worthwhile activities such as art, music, extracurricular activities, and more is instead going to replace equipment. And that is probably the biggest shame of all.

The bottom line is that our kids need to be prepared for whatever the future holds. That means that we must NOT limit their exposure, but rather expand it.



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